The Women’s Economic Security Agenda
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The Maryland Women’s Economic Security Agenda

80% of families in Maryland rely on a woman’s wages. And 70% of Maryland’s low-wage workers are women. When employees are not valued and treated unfairly and unjustly, their families suffer, and Maryland loses. Meanwhile, a persistent gender-based wage gap continues to harm women, their families and the economy, though the WESA campaign helped to pass Equal Pay legislation in 2016.

At the same time, unpredictable scheduling practices create profound insecurity and instability for workers and their families. Workers cannot predict their hours or pay from day to day, make time for schooling or to care for children or family, secure a second job, take time off to take care of themselves or their children when they get sick or qualify for promotions to full-time employment.

Maryland Working Families is advancing the Women’s Economic Security Agenda (WESA) — a policy solution that ensures that workers have access to good jobs they can count on. We seek to empower women in a new and challenging economic climate, to promote women’s rights at the workplace, and secure fair wages, benefits and working conditions for women.

Policies that make working people’s lives better also make our communities stronger, and make Maryland a more attractive place to live and work.  Earned Sick Leave, Fair Scheduling, Equal Pay, Affordable Child Care and a Higher Minimum Wage are all part of the Women’s Economic Security Agenda (WESA); a strategy for improving the financial stability of women and their families in Maryland.

Earned Sick Leave – More than 750,000 Marylanders are not able to earn sick leave and 54% of women working in the private sector do not have a single paid sick day. Additionally, over half of full-time Maryland workers who earn less than $35,000 annually lack access to paid sick days.

These workers are forced to make impossible choices; go to work sick, send a sick child to school or daycare, leave an ill child or parent alone, or stay home and lose much needed pay and risk losing their job. They deserve an Earned Sick Leave policy which would allow them to earn up to 7 paid sick days a year to recover from illness, care for a sick family member, go to the doctor, or deal with the effects of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Fair Scheduling – Nationally, 38 percent of workers get their schedules one week or less in advance. Half of Maryland’s total workforce is comprised of hourly workers who are more likely to experience unpredictable schedules. When employers schedule workers on-call with no guarantee of pay, cancel shifts at the last minute, or send workers home early without compensation, families suffer. Difficult and unpredictable scheduling is especially detrimental to the academic progress and mental health of children in low-wage families. Fair Scheduling legislation gives hourly workers three weeks advanced notice of their schedule so they can plan for childcare, continuing education, or a second job, and budget for essential items. It encourages employers to create predictable and family-supportive schedules, and fairly compensate workers for the time that they make themselves available for their employer.

Equal Pay for Women – Women in Maryland earn only 86 cents for every dollar earned by men in a comparable job. Maryland Working families helped pass legislation to keep employers from retaliating against workers for sharing how much they earned. Now we need to keep employers from asking about a worker’s salary history until they’ve been offered a position, and require them to include at least a minimum wage for the job. Because women tend to have a lower income history, using it to determine a new job’s salary continues the pay disparity cycle. Equal pay for women will result in greater economic stability for Maryland families.

Raise the Floor – Over half of women workers earn below $15 and hour, and over 60% of all minimum wage earners are women. Because the Maryland Minimum wage is so low, at only $9.25 an hour, over half of working families require government assistance just to get by. That means that our taxes are subsidizing the corporations that pay low wages. It is time for them to pay their fair share. We are fighting for $15 an hour for all workers by 2023, and for tipped workers by 2027. Increasing the minimum wage leads to healthier newborns and children, improves our local economy, and helps to close gender and race-based pay gaps.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance – Almost 24% of new mothers return to work less than 2 weeks after giving birth, and almost 12% return in just one week, because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. Only 5% of low-wage worker have access to paid parental leave. A Paid Family and Medical Leave Act would establish a state administered insurance program to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement. This would give them time to take off work to care for a newborn, to deal with a serious health condition, including a difficult pregnancy, or to care for a family member, a newly adopted child, or a newly placed foster child. Paid Family and Medical leave significantly improves the physical and mental health of children and their parents, reduces infant mortality, helps keep women employed, increases their wages, and reduces their need for public assistance.

Affordable Quality Childcare – Low-income families spend about half of their income on child care, and, in Maryland, the annual cost of care for an infant in a child care center is higher than a year’s tuition at a 4 year state college. Childcare has become unaffordable for most families in Maryland. At the same time, most Maryland childcare workers don’t make enough to afford the cost of living. Affordable, accessible, and quality childcare is a basic need for working families. We are fighting for policies that increase public investment in caring for children, from subsidies and tax credits for childcare, and expanding Head Start and full day public preschool. Not only would these policies support individual children, they’d support the economic stability of millions of Marylanders.

 

Do you agree it’s time to pass WESA and support fairness and equality for Maryland women and families?

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Print out one of these signs, fill it in, and take a picture of yourself holding the sign. Or, film a video saying why you support WESA. Then, post to social media using #PushWESA.